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3 Steps to Take Before Developing a New App

Alena Davis, Appian
April 20, 2018

The entire ecosystem surrounding enterprise app development has shifted. For years, companies that wanted to build a proprietary solution needed to create in-house development teams, spend months writing custom code and go through an extended test and release process just to get the solution off the ground. From there, they had to worry about user adoption and engagement. The process was so long and expensive that companies couldn't casually create a new app to solve a key problem. Those days are gone.

We recently published a story detailing a practice one of our clients has taken to allow them to create a new app in just a day. The firm is using our low-code platform to streamline and accelerate app creation and deployment, so much so that non-tech users can get in on projects and new solutions can be released within 24 hours. With businesses now able to create apps quickly and transform around digital technologies, it can be tempting to roll out apps at a moment's notice and then move on.

Organizations need to be careful to make sure they don't let the speed and simplicity of app development in low-code platforms lead them to become less strategic about the solutions they can create. A lack of purpose and governance in app creation can lead to waste and app sprawl, creating complexity when you're aiming for efficiency.

You can avoid this problem by keeping intentionality in mind when creating an app and ensuring that each solution doesn't just have a specific, defined purpose, but also a roadmap for its life cycle and expected use. Before developing a new app, follow these three steps to position your solution for maximum impact:

1. Identify the Business Use Case

Why do you need the app? There are a variety of good answers, but you need to collaborate across stakeholder groups to ensure there is a clear, shared vision for the solution. For example, a regulatory officer may need an app to track compliance automatically and eliminate manual documentation. At the same time, the employees handling the actual transactions may be more bothered by limitations in data sharing and not as worried about the manual documentation. As you develop your use case, make sure to look at the problems the app needs to solve holistically so you can create one solution to address multiple related issues.

"Application development platforms make it easy to change and build on solutions over time."

Within this conversation, it is vital to not only think about the immediate use of the application, but how it may evolve as new features are added. Application development platforms make it easy to change and build on solutions over time. By creating short- and long-term functionality goals, you can ensure that apps evolve naturally and in line with core operational goals. This can limit app sprawl by creating strong, focused app life cycles that guide development timelines.

2. Analyze Everyday Workflows

Just about every company has witnessed a situation in which they invest heavily in a new solution only to have users be apathetic or outright negative about using the software. An Information Age report pointed out that organizations can avoid this problem by thinking about the habit-forming principles that exist within technology.

Everybody has habits in their work days and, for the most part, they can be healthy ways to structure activities and stay on top of stressful, demanding situations. When you ask users to break those habits, you can end up with a lot of pushback. If you build an application around the workflows and processes that are in place, the technology can then enhance existing activities. What's more, solutions that help employees actually build better habits can go a long way in driving engagement, the report explained.

Before you actually develop an app, take a hard look at user activities, operational goals and technical capabilities so you can align how the app functions with how people need to work. Information Age suggested beginning by solving highly specific pain points. Low-code platforms make this easier by letting you quickly roll out solutions aimed at problems.

3. Identify How You Will Sustain the App

Rapid innovation is great, but you must be able to maintain progress and support existing systems if you want to glean value from technology. While digital solutions are transforming the enterprise at a breakneck pace, Daryl Plummer, vice president and fellow for Gartner, told audiences at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo 2017 event that businesses must be disciplined about their tech expectations.

"CIOs in end-user organizations will need to develop a pace that can be sustained no matter what the future holds," said Plummer. "Our predictions provide insight into that future, but enterprises will still be required to develop a discipline around how pace can be achieved."

"You need to be strategic and forward-thinking about each choice you make."

In other words, you need to be strategic and forward-thinking about each choice you make, keeping the specific requirements of your company in mind at all times. It's fine to get excited by a new technology that is emerging, but don't feel like you have to jump on the bandwagon just because it is getting hype. Instead, take a tactical approach to analyzing your processes and pain points and figure out how best to support solutions on an ongoing basis. You don't want to innovate in fits and starts, you want a sustained pattern of growth.

When it comes to app creation, you'll need to develop new solutions to handle technologies that emerge in the business, and it is vital to ensure each investment you make in an app aligns with the larger technology choices you are grappling with. Don't develop apps in isolation.

Getting Strategic While Moving Quickly

Digitally transformed businesses innovate fast and roll out new solutions on a consistent basis. Speed is simply a new reality. However, app platforms can accelerate the legwork associated with building apps so that your teams can focus more time and energy on the strategy behind the solutions. Before you develop your next app, make sure to consider these three steps to set yourself up to create something that will remain valuable over an extended life cycle.